The Beekeeper’s Apprentice

Posted by : atcampbell | On : August 3, 2009

The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R King

Sixteen people attended this gathering at the North Village Branch of the Austin Public Library, including two first timers who had found us on the Austin Public Library web page listing.

Several attendees had read Laurie R. King previously and were glad to be given the opportunity to discuss her first Sherlock Holmes novel. One reader was not thrilled at this selection and wanted to know how this fit into a reading group of science fiction and/or fantasy. The view of a number of attendees was that the books presented an alternative and perhaps secret history. While this answer seemed to be in agreement with most of the folks who were in attendance it still did not work for one individual. We disagreed to disagree on why it was being read in the FACT reading group and then began in our typical discussion protocol.

Everyone chimed in on how the setting post-World War I was instrumental in the background and how issues that began during the war lead to all types of transformations in its aftermath: the use of new technology, shifting of cultural norms between men and women, adjustments of the class structure and the amends to a strong female character including a strong feminist tone from the American outsider.

The first reader stated it was an odd mystery, but not a typical mystery, as many social injustices were played out and many social aspects were openly exposed.

The next couple of readers declined to actively participate as they had not yet read the book.

Another reader thought it was well written but lacked proper historical details and the slant of sociology was interesting, but he did enjoy the book.

The next reader gave a brief history of the book; how it had won the Edgar award for first novel, and how well the author has done since this novel. He then mentioned the timeframe given in the book was unusual and how a major character had his world view changed by the end of this book.

Another reader enjoyed the book and would probably read the next in the series.

One person said it was easy to read and liked the plucky young heroine.

Our next reader said the book was boring having read the author?s previous work, Grave Talent, and was quite taken aback by the differences in writing style.

A new member of the group gushed how much she like this book and how the book made the oftentimes boring character, Sherlock Holmes come alive. She then commented on the many layers of the book and how well they all conversed in the final chapters.

The next comments came from a longtime reader of mysteries and he thought the characters were handled differently than most mysteries he had read previously.

Our next reader stated the book was just a mystery, nothing new and exciting but a fair read.

Another voice in our discussion admitted she has always been a fan of Sherlock Holmes and thought the staging of this book would appeal to most readers; she also commented that distancing of certain characters was interesting.

One reader wondered if this was a young adult novel at first, and it gave a different perspective of post WWI. He also commented on the range of expanded vocabulary and the different words used to depict a mood or tone.

Several other readers echoed many of the previous comments and one said how they enjoyed the physical action scene at the end. Other readers wondered if the action was physically possible.

Most of those attending liked the book and said they would read the next book in this series to follow the lives of the characters. While it may not be the typical science fiction or fantasy book it was a change from what we normally read.

Afterward many of us then went to dinner at Waterloo Ice House just north of the library.

—Karen Meschke

Substitute for an ill AT Campbell